Decimated Bulls need flip the script back to defensive battle

Kirk Hinirch is a game time decision but looks unlikely to play. Luol Deng and Taj Gibson were both home sick, and while they'll likely play, who knows if their condition will allow them to play at their peak.

If the Bulls drop tonight's game and have to play a game seven in Brooklyn, they'll be in serious danger of adding on to their list of dubious playoff accomplishments. They're one of five teams to lose in the first round as the one seed, and one of a fairly small group to lose any round after being up 2-0. They can add lost a series after having a 3-1 lead to their list of epic playoff fails this series if they're not careful.

I'd love to say Tom Thibodeau won't let them lose three in a row, but much like both of those other series losses, if it happens this time, the injuries will be the primary reason why. The Bulls were missing Curry/Deng that series against Washington and were fortunate to have won the first two. We all know why they lost as the one seed last year, and you get the feeling that by the end of this series the Bulls will have to go 4 on 5 at some point because the roster's getting so thin.

Rebound the basketball

There Bulls may be hurt, they me be banged up, but they need to hit the glass hard. They lost game five on the offensive glass before dropping the rope at the end. The Nets may have more talent than Chicago offensively, but they're softer and not as tough on the glass.

Chicago needs to make this game about dominating the glass on both ends. Guys like Jimmy butler and Luol Deng need to crash the glass hard. Taj Gibson needs to have a big rebounding night, and though he's playing on one leg, and has given us his everything, we need Joakim Noah to give us more. We need Joakim Noah to play like Joakim Noah today.

Bring back the defense

Missing Kirk Hinrich is a blow to the defense, but the Bulls gave up 132 points in a game four triple overtime battle with him in there. It's not just about Hinrich, in fact, it's probably not even mostly about Hinrich.

The Bulls need to bring a game two/three style defensive intensity to this game. They need to stop giving Brooklyn the fast break opportunities, stop letting them get the dunks and layups, and force them into the contested jumpers that they're dying to fall in love with anyway.

The Nets offense has been rolling in three of the five games. The Bulls were only able to win one of those games. The two games that were defensive struggles Chicago won. The Bulls need to turn this game into one of those defensive struggle games.

Who steps up on offense?

Nate Robinson's giving you two amazing games in a row and while we'll certainly need him, and Chicago will be holding its breath to see if he can deliver for a third. Robinson isn't consistently this good. If he was, he wouldn't have signed on a non guaranteed contract to start the season. That said, if he can stay in the zone for one more night, the Bulls will always have a chance.

What Chicago really need is Luol Deng to pull his head out of his ass this series. He's 1/18 from beyond the three point line and has a TS% of 39% for the series. He's, theoretically, one of the Bulls best offensive players, but he's mostly been a train wreck on offense so far.

Jimmy Butler's been criticized for not looking ready offensively, but he's averaging 11.7 points per 36 minutes on 63.5 TS% relative to Deng's 11.1 on 39%. In other words, Jimmy's giving you more points on about half the shots.

Carlos Boozer has been effective in the series, but he hasn't look as effective with Nate Robinson running the show. That's been true all year, and the Bulls will have to find a balance of Robinson being awesome and Robinson feeding Boozer. Robinson is a better creator than Hinrich, but he's not a better facilitator. For guys like Butler who will do well with open space created that's fine. For guys like Boozer that really just need to get the ball in their comfort zone it's less effective.

Must win

The Bulls need to throw everything they have against Brooklyn in this game. You do not wan this series to go to game 7. You do not want to have to try and win again on the road. Chicago needs to come out with true intensity, take care of the little things, and play Bulls basketball.

If the Nets win anyway, then so be it, but make them beat you at your game not theirs.

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  • We must bring the gritty chitown Defense, rebounding, please feed boozer the ball. He only took 8 shots. That can't happen! He is averaging over 20 in series.

    Please stay consistent Nate and jimmy!

    Loul Where are you? Please start out aggressive your 3 ball is not falling go to the rim!!! Cut slash get to the line.

    We need to see more of Marcus Teague or rip needs to play in this game. Nate looked gassed and it affected his energy and offense at the end of the game.

    Using rip will open up the middle for Noah and boozer with the running screen and pop game. Also rip can handle ball. Belinelli is just not strong with the ball and our offense is worse than when Nate running point. Marco always seem to turn the ball over! It would also have mr decoy Johnson chasing rip thru screens.

    Let's go Bulls!!!

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    I can't see them using rip, but Marco has shot the ball pretty well in the series in his limited minutes. We'll see what happens.

    This is a step up game for Luol Deng IMO. He's had a fairly awful series so far outside of two minutes in game three.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Deng is probably just beat up and worn out. Don't forget he led the NBA in minutes this year playing with a injured shooting hand.

  • In reply to ajaychitown:

    I don't think Deng's struggling is all that surprising Loul has always struggled against elite athletes. Gerald Wallace isn't what he was in his prime but he is still a tough defender and better athlete than Deng.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Well, it looks like he is going to step up tonight, right into the infirmary.

    Never-the-less, this series just continues to prove that Deng is nothing more than a 4rth best player on a contending team. A nice player to have during the regular season, but not someone who is going to win you games in the playoffs, just like all the other members of our various cores during the years, i.e. Hinrich, Gordon, Bozo the Bamboozler, etc.

  • In reply to bullzfan:

    Agree.
    Some wise minutes management by Thibs (not his strong suit) will be needed so the Bulls are not gassed in the 4th quarter, particularly the last 6 minutes. Will Thibs play Butler, Nate and Deng 44 minutes each?

    I agree Teague should be used a bit more with Hinrich out. But Thibs never used him enough during the season so he's hesitant to use him now.

  • In reply to Edward:

    lets just say it, Thibs sucks at minutes distribution which is a contributing factor to the banged up core players and he isn't great at giving rookies minutes since he freaks out about everything. I think these two things are what seperates him from Popovich who excels with young players and minutes distribution. Injuries can always happen but the grind of the regular season can add up with the extended minutes, especially in the physical basketball style that Thibs preaches. Hopefully next year we see a different mindset from coach about these two issues.

    I agree, if the Bulls fail to win game 6 at home, they pretty much lost the series. This next game should be viewed like a game 7 for Bulls fans.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    He has been one of the most successful new coaches in the history of the NBA. Hard to say his choice of minute distribution sucks when Management hasn't given him choices on the bench to turn to. Got to have your top talent on the floor as much as possible to win.

    You load up a team with guys with injury histories and blame the coach when they get hurt. Noah, Boozer, Kirk, Taj, Rip and Deng all have long histories of injuries and that is before Thibs was their head coach.

    No top coaches are great at giving rookies minutes many refuse to play them outside of junk time. Phil Jackson said that exact thing.

    Thibs is far from perfect and isn't in Popovich's class yet but he is a top 3-4 coach. All I am saying is there is way more issues with the Bulls than coaching. I would start with GarPax and their love for old injury riddled players.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Well said, Defense and Rebound.
    The regular season is a meaningless ultra-marathon. The season is too long with too many games and too much travel. The wise coaches recognize this and and plan REST into the 82-game equation. Popovich, as you say, is great at this, Phil was also good. Thibs denies the obvious, that NBA athletes are humans susceptible to fatigue and breakdown, and it shows in that: Thibs has never brought a healthy Bulls roster to the playoffs; and argued with Doc Rivers in 2009 to grind the old Celtic players to get a better playoff seed, instead of resting them down the stretch. Doc wisely ignored Thibs, rested his players, and went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals as a result.

    Treating the 82 regular season games like they are playoff games is entertaining to watch, but leaves the team ill-prepared for the playoffs - the starters are fatigued and banged up, and the rookies are unprepared or under developed.

    To Chad - Thibs success as a new coach is confined to the regular season. He has not been a particularly successful playoff coach. Popovich is excellent at developing rookies with playing time. And yes some blame must go to GarPax, but Thibs must share in that blame. He refused to play Nazr earlier piling on the minutes for Noah, could have played Jimmy Butler more earlier sparing Deng's minutes but only played Butler when Deng went down. Instead he had both those starters near the top of the NBA in minutes. WHY AND FOR WHAT PURPOSE? To grind out a few more regular season wins?!? Thibs only gives significant minutes to bench players when a starter goes down with injury. Instead Thibs needs to play the bench to give starters rest while they are still healthy. It is a preventative measure that Thibs has not figured out and needs to be implemented in Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, etc.

    Thibs mantra of only focusing on the next game precludes a wise long-term approach to developing a playoff team. Yes, Thibs is excellent at many other aspects of coaching and I like him. But this is by far his weakest aspect and he won't become a great coach until he learns it.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Maybe Thibs isn't a Hall of Fame coach like Pop or Phil just yet but his coaching is maybe 9th or 10th on the list of things to fix.

    Amazing that the Bulls built 1 of the 4 best teams in the NBA with a terrible owner, horrible GM, weak-minded superstar and good-but-not-great coach. Just luck I guess.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Yes, I agree.
    I too would classify winning the NBA draft lottery with a 1.8% chance as luck.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Excellent thoughtful analysis, could not agree with you more. We all like Thibs, but he is going to have to evolve as a coach if the Bulls are to become a true championship contender. The question is, is he capable of doing so.

  • Some people are trotting out Luol Deng's injuries, including a mysterious ankle injury as the reason he's played so badly. There are no excuses for it. This is the playoffs. If a player isn't banged up and hurting by May, he must not have seen the floor much in the regular season.

    And people are still gushing about Hinrich. It's frankly insane. He hasn't stayed healthy, missing a couple dozen regular season games and now two playoff games. A player is a bad signing when they can't stay on the floor. We need Hinrich on the floor, not because of something spectacular he does, but because our point guard rotation becomes 5'8" Nate Robinson and a rookie who's only played a couple hundred NBA minutes, mostly in garbage time.

  • 3rd quarter, Bozo the Banshee in full blown Clownpanzee mode, if this were Nat Geo Wild, some of you guys would actually be right, he'd be an all star.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    what an asshole, like he's done anything to deserve to be that demonstrative after a fuck up by the other team.

  • Ladies and gentleman or should I say ladies and ladies there is the Carlos BozoHole that you idiots are all so in love with.

    He just made his biggest play of the series, no make that his entire Bulls career, and naturally it is a blatantly moronic shove in the back on an offensive rebound in a 2 point game to close out the series.

    What an awesome big time, big game player, James Worthy must be jealous.

  • I for one will be glad when the Bulls season is over cause all of the injuries to this team has been just too much for 1 full season.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    I think the Bulls will be put out of their misery come Saturday night.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    The Bulls season is over. They gave a good effort, but too many injuries to overcome. Hopefully next year everyone will healthy and ready to go.

  • That was a horseshit toss by the refs, but hey they haven't done us a favor all night.

    Love ya Jo, but you have to have better game/court situational awarness than Chris Webber with the game on the line like that.

  • Some of these injury plague players need to go, I mean this happens every year for the last few years to this Bulls team and everyone wonders why Rose is not playing. This season and all of the injuries is a perfect example as to why he's not playing this year. The Bulls don't need to be humiliated by The Heat anyway. Some of the games against the Heat maybe would've been close but it would be a 5 game series in favor of Miami.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    Totally agree. Better to go down because of an absurd amount of injuries, then move on and get embarrassed by Miami. And something needs to be done about this chronic injury problem; either move some players, or manage minutes better during regular season. Something needs to change.

  • It's amazing that one might expect a Bulls team missing Hinrich (last game), Hinrich and Luol (thought you can say Deng's been MIA the entire series) this game, Noah playing on busted feet, to beat a Nets team with three max players (and two deserving of them). On paper, the Nets should have buried the Bulls in four or five games. It's a testament to this team. However, no one should be able to talk about "when this team gets healthy" because it isn't happening with this core, ever.

    Derrick I've lost hope on. But It's time for Hinrich and Deng, if they can so much as suit up, to get out there and eat up some minutes in game 7. There's nothing after this. If the Bulls lose they go home til October. That means you play.

  • The series is not over yet... There IS one more game. Even though the lost, here are the positives that you can take away.
    1.) Belinelli caused a lot of problems on the pick and roll for Brooklyn. The Bulls should have scored more. Thibs should have ran that until Brooklyn stopped it. I don't know they went away from that.
    2.) Belinelli caused Deron Williams problems with his size. Williams only had 1 assist all night. Belinelli also did a decent job on Joe Johnson defensively. This may be a positive if Hinrich comes back because it puts Nate back on the bench playing against bench players.
    3.) Noah seemd to be himself physically. His mobility was back and he was way active with tipped balls and rebounds all night. Also his activity really bother Brook Lopez in the second half.
    4.) Brooklyn still has to win at home. If they struggled to beat a Bulls team without Deng, Hinrich, Gibson and Robinson not at 100%, is it possible that Brooklyn will have all the pressure on them if the Bulls can compete with a full roster (sans DRose) on Saturday?
    5.) The Bulls got the short end of the stick by the refs in the first half. I think that Satruday will be a much more fairly reffed game on Saturday. Boozer and Gibson fouling out with Lopez , Wallace playing with abandon and no consistency from the refs was high ly questionable for me.

    Brooklyn will choke on Saturday. Tell me when has Deron Williams and Joe Johnson ever benn clutch in their careers? Never... Watch what I say...Brooklyn will choke on Saturday. They alsmost choked tonight. Bulls just ran out of time...

  • fuck. I hate the nba

  • fuck. I hate the nba

  • It hit me that the Bulls starters at point guard, shooting guard and small forward last night make combined just over 4 million for the season. That's like, what, two months of Joe Johnson's salary? Just a thought.

  • I don't understand why Nasr Muhammad didn't get more playing time with the bigs in foul trouble.

    I too am not interested in seeing Miami destroy a beat up Bulls team.

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